REVIEW: Pinter classic beguiles and intrigues on Leamington stage

Lorna Middleton as Kate, Rod Wilkinson as Deeley and Mary MacDonald as Anna
Lorna Middleton as Kate, Rod Wilkinson as Deeley and Mary MacDonald as Anna
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Nick Le Mesurier reviews Old Times by Harold Pinter at the Loft Theatre, Leamington

At once funny, beguiling, infuriating, moving, and absorbing, Harold Pinter’s Old Times defies description. Pinteresque is a term that has entered the lexicon, implying a sense of menace hidden beneath a façade of triviality, but in a good production he can still surprise us, still poke us where it hurts.

Old Times is one of his classics. Three people, Kate (Lorna Middleton), Deeley (Rod Wilkinson) and Anna (Mary MacDonald) are in a remote country house. It is Kate and Deeley’s house, to which Anna is visiting: but why? As the dialogue twists and turns nothing becomes reliable. Just what are their relationships? Are the events they recall real, imagined, or invented for some other purpose? Again, why?

In this production it is Deeley’s paranoia that seems to be the centre of the play, and Kate the object of both his and Anna’s desires. But what exactly is Anna’s relationship with Kate? Did she and Kate once live together, and did Anna once steal her underwear? Was Deeley the mysterious man who once visited them and lay weeping on the bed; and did he later make an improper gesture towards Anna? What does Kate want? And who is manipulating who?

There have been many interpretations of this dark psychological thriller, which plays with our sense of the past and how we re-create it. Neither Deeley’s frustration, Kate’s cool sense of power as the object of desire, nor Anna’s teasing will quite solve the puzzle. You might, as my partner and I did afterwards, argue about what it all means, but I doubt you’ll question the absorbing power of this production.

* Old Times runs until Saturday June 10. Visit www.loft-theatre.co.uk to book.